A former town mayor was the surprise star turn of a community party when he delivered a powerful rendition of the popular ballad, Danny Boy.
Octogenarian John Ridley, who worked as a plumber before retirement showed off his singing talent at the party organised by Cartrefi Conwy housing association to celebrate older age groups in society.
John, 84, an ex-local councillor and Mayor of Llandudno, was given rapturous applause after the note perfect performance of the popular song which is one of his favourites.
It wasn’t part of the official programme for the event but friends and neighbours persuaded him to kick off the afternoon’s activities with the inspirational tune.
His stirring performance brought tears to the eyes of Cartrefi Conway Board Vice Chairman, Bill Hunt, who said: “He has a simply wonderful voice. It is so emotional hearing him sing.”
Cartrefi Conwy Older Person’s Engagement Co-ordinator Kelly Williams explained that the fun get-together was organised to mark the nationwide Celebrating Age Festival which runs throughout October and began with the national Day of the Older Person on October 1.
The month-long festival aims to promote ageing well; including challenging stereotypes around ageing, celebrating older voices, and encouraging everyone to try something new.
Now long retired from his plumbing career and council duties, John is living with dementia, but he says music is his salvation. He loves to sing and still remembers all the lyrics to many popular numbers by heart.
He puts his musical talent down to his Welsh heritage, having lived in Llandudno since childhood.
He said: “I was born on the Great Orme. I’ve always loved music.”
He is a former member of Llandudno Town Band with whom he played cornet for many years.
John was with his wife Pat and daughter Linzi Ridler at the party at Trinity Community Centre, Llandudno.
Friend Sheila Campbell, who runs the local Well Women Club, said: “John loves singing and we knew he would give a fabulous performance so we asked if he could sing to us to open the start of the entertainment section of the party. His performance was wonderful, he has such a melodious voice.”
Kelly Williams said: “We organised five similar parties across our social housing sites in North Wales inviting all our tenants in the older age brackets. They were attended by nearly 300 people in all. This one in Llandudno is our last one this year, but it’s the largest yet with 76 residents having turned out and they are all having a great time.
“One of the best things about throwing a locally based party like this is how friendly and relaxed everyone is. People are sitting, chatting and catching up on local news, which is wonderful for those of our tenants who have mobility issues or simply don’t get out much. If they want to come we will get them here no matter what it takes.
“It offers them an important chance to socialise freely and to know that they are not forgotten about. They are all still valuable members of our local community.”
Their other Celebrating Age Festival parties were held by Cartrefi Conwy in Colwyn Bay, Llanfairfechan, Rhos-on-Sea, and Llanrwst.
At all of them residents enjoyed a home-made traditional sandwiches and cakes buffet lunch, party garlands, singing, dancing and party games entertainment.
In Llandudno all the food was prepared by Sheila Campbell and her friends from the Well Women Club which she runs every Tuesday afternoon.
Sheila praised two members of the group who have Down Syndrome, Linzi Ridler, 51, and Claire Griffiths, 47, who together took on the task of laying all the tables, putting out plates, cutlery, place settings and a packet of crisps for everyone.
Others in the catering crew included Vera Evans, Pat Ridler, Irene Tudor, Janey Mitton, Rachel Eagleton, Dianne Regan, and Becca Griffiths.
She said as well as socialising together, one of the most important benefits of the Well Women group is that it is run in a safe space where people know they can share their troubles and problems in complete confidence and make friends for life.
Also on the entertainment programme was local professional singer Cat McArdle, of Penmaenmawr, who called out the numbers in a humorous bingo game before leading the party goers in a song and dance session.
Kelly and her fellow party organisers from Cartrefi Conwy also arranged a raffle with a selection of homeware themed prizes and proceeds going to the charity Conwy MIND.
Bill Hunt added: “I have been coming to these parties for eight years now and I still find them remarkably uplifting. It is so good to meet tenants face to face in a relaxed environment. It’s nice to hear about their lives, and I’m also happy to listen to any views they have on how we as a housing association can improve our local services.”